A Love Story: Part 3

Every woman has a story in her head of how she’d like to be romanced. You, reading this, may happen to be the one woman in the whole world who doesn’t have a story like this in her head, in which case, shame on me for making sweeping generalizations. Maybe it’d be better to say that, at the very least, I always had a story in my head about how a man could fall in love with me. If any of the boys and men I was interested in had asked me what I wanted them to do, I could have easily mapped out a scenario for them that would fit the picture in my mind just perfectly.

However, there was a consistent story that I came back to, year after year, crush after crush. It went something like this: 

Future husband sees me from across a room. We could have been at a party together, or in an airport headed different directions, or at a concert, or riding in an elevator to the top of the Empire State building. The location was, of course, immaterial. What was important is that I caught his eye and took his breath away (and all those other clichéd sayings that fit this description perfectly).

Immediately, he falls in love with me. He doesn’t even have to talk to me—he just knows. You know, he knows (whatever that means!). He walks across said “setting” (room, elevator, concert hall, airport terminal…) and strikes up a conversation with me. He’s awfully nervous and totally fails at winning my affection within five minutes. Sorry, bud. I decide I’m not interested and he proceeds to drop whoever he was with to follow me and try to win me—it could be for a day, a week, a month, a year.

But I’m not interested until suddenly, I realize I love him and we get married almost instantly. In my mind, there’s almost no separation from the moment I know I love him and the time we get married. (Was I not remembering that weddings are big events that take months to plan?)

Anyway, the important parts are that:

1) he fall in love with me by my sheer outer beauty alone,

2) he pursues me and I am not as interested in him until,

3) I fall in love with him at the last moment of the movie at which time we…

4) get married and have boatloads of children (yes, I did say boatloads. Did I leave that out before?) who are, of course, entranced by our love story, which we tell them over and over again NOT to repeat EVER in a MILLION YEARS.

Phew! You traveled into the mind of a WOMAN just now—did you make it out, okay (alive?)?

The funny thing is that, as logical, as thinking, as philosophical and reasonable as I can be, this story literally shaped every interaction I had with men. I would meet a man and hope that this story would happen. I would be on the lookout all the time for “the” man. I look back and realize that this is foolishness, but what I see in this is a true desire to be loved and wanted.

Women are motivated by this desire above all other desires. We want to know that we are beautiful, and I think it’s hard to describe the truth depth of what that means, but this story gives you just a small taste. The irony of all this is that, naturally, this was the complete opposite of my story, the one that God actually gave me, the one that includes a real live flesh man (ahem, Jeremy) and real live flesh me. The story God gave me was real and true and difficult and better than I could dreamed up. It seems that God continually humbles me in this way—what I imagine for myself, for my life, doesn’t come close to the beauty of what God has in store. But it always looks different—every time. (God makes me laugh at myself a lot)

So here’s the story of how we got from point A (“the meeting”) to point B (“dating”): we became friends. I started to attend the Bible study where we had met every week. I went to every social activity these people planned, every event at Jeremy’s house, and every prayer time. I hosted Lent events at my house and birthday parties for myself (that first year, I had a beat poetry birthday party ). I made pancakes for everyone and invited people over for game nights. I played Frisbee golf, which I am terrible at, and laughed at myself, which made everybody else laugh and enjoy themselves. I talked with Jeremy a lot.

I should tell you, I didn’t just go to Bible study because of Jeremy. He was a curiosity to me in the beginning—I wouldn’t say I was in love with him by any means. How could I have been? I didn’t know him. But I was certainly enraptured—the sort of way I expected my storybook man to be for me. And what I found in that group was deep friendship. I made friends with many of the women, one of whom Jeremy had pursued and almost dated (almost!) the month before I got to Colorado and arrived in their small Bible study group.

I felt at home for one of the first times in my life—my life that included going to four different elementary schools by the time I hit fifth grade—and I knew that God had carved out this group for me to be a part of. Kristina, who was part of this group and is still one of my dearest friends, once told me, “Liz, it felt like something was missing in our Bible study before you came, and then you arrived and we realized that it had been you all along!” This was the beauty of what God had prepared for me in Colorado Springs, and it extended far beyond Jeremy Grant.

However, meeting Jeremy scared me. During college, I had experienced a lot of heartbreak, the worst of which occurred by guy friends unintentionally leading me on so that I assumed they were interested and they had no inkling of it. The most biting example I can give is that one day, when I took a guy friend out to Denny’s to tell him I liked him, and when I did, he told me he liked me back. Thinking we were now dating, I went home elated. The next morning, he asked me to go for a walk with him, during which he clarified that when he’d said “I like you,” he’d meant like a friend likes a friend—not anything more.

That story typifies my college experience of men, and as soon as I met Jeremy, I was filled up with fear. I did not want to spend my time pining after a man who would never find me attractive, interesting, worth asking our or spending a life with. So, almost as soon as I met Jeremy, I decided I wouldn’t spend any time alone with men at all—including him—for 4 months. “I need a break from heartbreak!” I thought to myself.

In the midst of this, God arranged for us to go swing dancing, purely by coincidence. Jeremy held my hands and spun me around and told me I was a good dancer. We laughed a lot. He watched me walk to my car afterwards. And then I decided that I would tell no one of my crush, and I’d do everything I could to keep it a secret from Jeremy. I wouldn’t call him. I wouldn’t ask him to lunch. I wouldn’t write him notes (a bad habit I got into in college). I wouldn’t even pray for him—I’ve found that praying for someone can bind your heart to them, and I wouldn’t have my heart bound to a man who didn’t even know I cared for him. Nope, men were off-limits!

I thought that all those things would kill my crush—they did not. I noticed that Jeremy was very careful not to lead women on, and I admired him more. I kept trying to give my crush up altogether, to be free of it. When my friend told me that Jeremy had pursued her, I was hurt and sad.

“God, what am I doing? Please take my feelings away!” I prayed with utter seriousness. He did not take them away. And in fact, the night I remember praying that, Jeremy left a message to see if I wanted to spend time with him and another group of people. He doesn’t remember it, but it gave me hope that my crush wasn’t without purpose.

I sat next to him in groups, but tried to avoid looking only at him when he spoke. I invited him to every group event I planned, and he came to every one. On one Lent breakfast I held at my house, he and my friend who he’d pursued were there together. He called her beautiful when she was in the bathroom, and I could have cried. But that afternoon, he and my friends Anthony and Kristina and I all went Frisbee golfing, and he talked and laughed with me the whole time. I was confused and frustrated by my feelings, but I just couldn’t let them go.

Jeremy asked me to lunch over email to talk about a children’s book he was writing, and I turned him down and told him I’d decided not to spend time alone with men. He never emailed me back, and I knew he hadn’t been “asking me out,” but only asking me to partner with him as an artist.

I invited him to my birthday party and he was the only man to come. But for some reason, I left that night thinking that he wasn’t interested and I was wasting my time.

I went home after my internships, between April and May of 2009, and I talked with God about Jeremy for a month. I asked him to either take away my feelings or do something—by that point, I’d been hoping for something between us for four months. I didn’t want to spend all my time pining.

I remember watching “Dan in Real Life” by myself one night. When I got to the end, I started to cry. “God,” I asked, “couldn’t you give me something beautiful like this? Family, marriage—these things are beautiful. They’re from you. Please, can you give this to me?” I remember looking at the clock just before I went upstairs—it was 11:55PM.

The next morning I checked my email. I’d decided not to email Jeremy at all when I went home to Maryland, and so I hadn’t talked with him in weeks. But that morning, I had an email in my inbox from Jeremy, asking me how I was doing and what I thought of a book he’d leant me. I checked the time on the email—it was sent at midnight the night before. As I was praying that prayer, Jeremy was writing me that email. God kept my hope alive.

When I left to go back to Colorado in early May, I felt that God was giving Himself a deadline, for my sake—“Give me until August,” I thought I could almost hear Him say. “Okay, I’ll give you until August. But if something doesn’t happen in August, I’m walking away from Jeremy forever. I won’t even be friends with him,” I decided.

I got back to Colorado in May and Kristina had arranged a “welcome back” party for me at TGI Fridays. I drove to the restaurant and the whole way prayed that Jeremy would be there. He was waiting for me on the sidewalk as I drove up. “Hi!” he told me, and gave me a big hug. When he left later that night, he said, “Stay in touch, okay? I’m glad you’re back.” I felt like I’d come home to him.

We emailed almost every day for the next few weeks, and then I found out about a Christian Arts conference that was being held at Glen Eyrie in early June. “I should invite Jeremy,” I thought, but I couldn’t do it. The deadline approached day by day, and I couldn’t make myself tell him about it.

Finally, two days before the registration was due, I emailed him all the details. “I know I should have told you about this sooner,” I said in the email. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to go.” “How long do I have to decide?” Jeremy asked me. “You have today,” I said. And that night he told me that he’d go.

That weekend at the conference was the first time we’d been alone together in six months of friendship—we danced, we went on walks, we prayed together, we read books to each other, we talked about art and ministry and life and family, and we laughed a lot. Our eyes were opened to each other in a way they hadn’t been.

I remember that Jeremy brought me coffee one morning, just the way I like it, without asking me what I wanted in it, and I started to wonder if he was interested in me. A friend I’d met at the conference asked me, “Are you guys dating?” And all I could tell her was, “I don’t know.”

The funny thing was, though, that most people we met at that conference assume we were already married. Many of them were from other states or countries even, and when they met us, we introduced ourselves together as both being from Colorado Springs, and our last names both start with “GRA…” with means that when they glanced at our name tags, they might not have noticed that our last names were different. We learned at that conference to specifically tell people that Jeremy lived a block away and I lived “way up north”—it usually helped it we pointed north to differentiate our two homes.

At one point, Jeremy said, “Hey, everyone thinks we’re married.” I just looked at him and said, “Yep.” Neither of us laughed.

At the end of the weekend, we went out with some people from the conference to Jack Quinn’s and Jeremy bought me a drink. And that’s when I knew that his heart had changed.

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